By Gene Kershner
The 2012 racing year is in the rear view mirror and the Kentucky Derby trail is about to start heating up with three more races this month with available points before we move into the Kentucky Derby Championship Series. The stakes go up when we enter the Series portion of the schedule in February where pre-determined races produce a larger amount of points up through the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in April.
Next weekend is Eclipse weekend in Hallandale Beach, Florida, where Gulfstream Park will host the 42nd annual awards show. Here are some of the things that have been rattling around the squirrel cage...
-- There’s a good chance that Wise Dan will come away with Horse of the Year (HOY), but not win a single individual category. The odd occurrence could happen with Little Mike (Older Turf Male) and Fort Larned (Older Male) could take both categories from the probable HOY. I voted for him in the HOY and Older Male categories, but did give Little Mike the nod in the Older Turf division based on his three quality victories in the Arlington Million, Turf Classic and the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
-- The Eclipse finalists (top three) in each category were released last Saturday and can be found here at the NTRA website.
-- The next three races in the Derby points system are the Lecomte (Fair Grounds), the Smarty Bull (Oaklawn) and the Holy Bull Stakes (Gulfstream), all with a 10-4-2-1 scorecard for the top four spots. All are prep races for races in the Championship Series portion of the schedule at the three respective tracks.
-- The first annual ThoroFan Awards Brunch will be held the morning after the Eclipse Awards at Gulfstream with trainer Nick Zito and 2012 NHC Champion handicapper Michael Beychok will be the guest speakers. Mrs. Patrice Wolfson, owner of the last Triple Crown champion Affirmed, will accept the inaugural ThoroFan Award on behalf of her and her late husband, Louis.
-- It was reported on Wednesday morning, that the Pletcher-based Archwarrior, a colt that was mega-hyped during his 2-year-old campaign, is off the Derby trail and may return in time for the Belmont.
-- On December 29, my namesake, Kershner ($9.00), a 3-year-old Trippi colt won at Tampa Bay Downs, and filling my inbox, as opposed to my wallet.
-- It looks like New York State Racing & Wagering Board Chairman John D. Sabini will step down as the state’s chief racing regulator today. He has been in that post since 2008. The pending merger with the state Lottery division into a state Gaming Commission on Feb. 1 and the fact he would only be paid on a per diem basis in the future if retained, appear to be the main reasons behind his stepping down.